Tom Arnold Talks Sponsoring Chris Farley’s Addiction Recovery and Growing Up Alongside the So-Called Queen of Meth
Actor and comedian also opens up about the break-up advice he received from Sharon Stone and James CameronJune 9, 2021
Actor, comedian, and longtime friend of the show Tom Arnold returned Wednesday morning, sitting down with Howard on the heels of the acclaimed “Queen of Meth” documentary series which explores the rise and fall of his sister Lori Arnold’s drug empire. Tom tackled a variety of subjects during the interview, from sponsoring famed funnyman Chris Farley during his addiction recovery to a relapse he himself suffered after a perilous motorcycle accident. He also spoke about his 2020 divorce from Ashley Groussman, which Arnold said left him with joint custody of their kids but almost no cash in his coffer.
Tom told Howard it was one of his celebrity friends, actress and fellow divorcee Sharon Stone, who first clued him in on divorce’s true price tag. “Two years ago she was sort of coaching me through this,” he recalled. “She said, ‘You’re going to spend every dime you have to get your kids.’”
The “Basic Instinct” star’s instincts were right on the money, and Tom told Howard the divorce cost him more than he could imagined. To make ends meet, he moved to a smaller home and sold off prized possessions and valuable artwork. “I sold a couple [Warhol paintings],” he said, explaining one depicted the moon landing and another featured John Wayne.
Regardless of the cost, Tom was grateful to keep his two young children in his life. “You make a list of what’s really important, and down the line is ‘Well, I don’t have the [Rembrandt] anymore … but I have my kids art on the wall,” he said.
“Tom, is marriage not for you?” Howard wondered at one point.
“I would say I’m never going to [get remarried], but [‘True Lies’ director] James Cameron always said, ‘Hey, you write your own fucking story. Nobody writes your ending.’ He’s been married five times but his last marriage is just awesome,” Tom responded. “But I’m also a 62-year-old dad with an eight-year-old and a five-year-old, and there’s not a lot of babes that are like, ‘Yeah, I gotta get that.’”
Could Margot Robbie PLAY the Queen of Meth?
Tom’s well-publicized struggles aren’t limited to marital matters. The actor battled addiction for decades and has never shied away about discussing it on the Stern Show. On Wednesday, he told Howard he inadvertently relapsed in the late aughts after a motorcycle wreck put him on painkillers. It wasn’t until over a year later, while celebrating two decades of sobriety with a cake, that Tom grasped he was no longer clean.
“I realized, ‘Oh, I am not sober. I am still on the pain medication from 17 months ago. Okay, I’m going to eat this cake in front of everybody, but then I’m going to call my sponsor and say I have to start over on Day One,’” he told Howard.
Arnold also opened up about he and his siblings’ unconventional upbringing in Ottumwa, Iowa. Tom’s parents divorced when he and his younger sister Lori were still just kids. Their mom turned to partying while their dad turned to the arms of their next-door neighbor. Needless to say, it affected the adults they would become.
“Our mom was a lunatic,” Tom told Howard, adding, “My sister worshipped my mom.”
Lori was just 14 when she married a 23-year-old man at her mom’s behest. As seen on “Queen of Meth,” Lori then started dealing drugs, built a meth lab under her farm, and eventually became one of the Midwest’s biggest drug distributors.
“At a certain point she said I’m going to be the best there ever was at this because she was smart,” Tom said.
“Were you ever tempted to join your sister and become a meth dealer?” Howard wondered.
“I just could tell that I couldn’t do that because of the kind of addict I was. Plus, the guy she worked with I did not like. She hooked up with Grim Reaper motorcycle gang and … she had to break up many fights [between us],” Tom responded.
The D.E.A. arrested Lori in 1991, seizing over $10 million in assets. She spend the next 15 years behind bars. All of that is explored on “Queen of Meth,” which Tom hoped might one day be adapted into a feature film. He even believed the A-list actress Margot Robbie could play the role of Lori and finally win herself an Oscar.
“I said that to Page Six or whatever … ‘[It would be] like Charlize Theron in “Monster!”’” he told Howard. “And then my sister calls me, ‘What the fuck? … Do I look like that?’ I was like, ‘No, that’s the kind of stuff you say to get projects going.’”
HIS BEST MAN, Chris Farley
As two Midwesterners with a penchant for comedy and partying, it’s perhaps unsurprising Tom and the late, great Chris Farley were dear friends. He told Howard they became acquainted after Chris impersonated him on “Saturday Night Live.” Soon they were going to football games together, staying at each other’s houses, and visiting with each other’s families. Chris was even the best man at one of Tom’s weddings, making lasting impressions with not only a memorable speech at the reception but also an unexpected performance at the bachelor party.
“Farley disappeared … and then came on stage naked, and then they ended up kicking everybody out,” Tom recalled of the strip club-set shindig.
In addition to being his good friend, Arnold told Howard he was also Chris’s sponsor in recovery. “[‘SNL’s’] Lorne Michaels called me. He said, ‘You have a lot in common with Chris Farley. Would you please spend time with him?’” he said. “Chris, you know, he wanted to be sober and I think Lorne really worried about that, so I was his sponsor for a few years.”
But Chris relapsed multiple times over the next couple years and the two grew more distant. “At a certain point, he was like, ‘Yeah, I’m not going to be around Tom because I don’t want him to see [me like this],” Tom said.
In 1997, Farley died after overdosing on a combination of heroin and morphine. An autopsy revealed the obese comedian’s poor arterial state was a contributing factor. Tom, who on Wednesday told Howard he aimed to shed a few pounds himself, considered that a dangerous combination.
“I always told Chris, you can’t be fat and do drugs … You gotta pick one. You just can’t do everything,” Tom said. “But he was surely a very funny, sweet guy, and I loved him very much.”
“Queen of Meth” is streaming now on Discovery+.